IMG_4885 IMG_4886Today, for the first time during the trip, we had a large amount of free time during which we were allowed to leave the hostel and visit various places around Riobamba without the guidance of the GGLs. In our morning free time, some students gathered materials for our Community Action Project, which begins tomorrow. One group of students took advantage of the large market near the hostel and purchased gifts for family members or themselves. Other groups visited various locations around the hostel like parks, restaurants, and our favorite corner bakery. In the morning I had the pleasure of visiting a restaurant with a group of friends before heading to the market to finish up gift shopping for my family. One of the most fun parts of the market is the ability to bargain with shopkeepers, something that is rarely, if ever, seen in the States. The vendors in the market are always very friendly and eager to help you find the exact piece you want, wether it be an alpaca sweater or a simple bracelet. After a fun-filled morning, the gang headed to Roma Santa for an always-delicious meal provided by the one-and-only Isabel. Once again, all students were able to venture outside the hostel after lunch to spend more free time satisfying any need or want they had. During this free time, students participated in many of the same activities from the morning. Groups went to the internet cafe to check in on Facebook or call home (shoutout parents), to the park to play soccer with local children, and to various food stores to grab any snacks they wanted. One of the main foci of the trip has been connecting with everyone and making as many new friends as possible. Today, more than any other day, we challenged the students to interact with people they may not have gotten to know as well as others. Many students decided to spend their free time with people they may not have been as close with. The best example of this is students who decided to venture out of the hostel primarily based on the location of the trip, rather than who was included in the group. As the Leader of the Day, I found it much more wholesome than I could ever have imagined. Prior to today, I had worried that I would forget some of my duties or fail my responsibilities, but in reality I found it much easier than I expected. My fear changed to happiness as I realized that I was in charge of a great group of people whose interests were aligned with my own. As the day winds to an end, the only bad feeling that I now have is knowing I will eventually be separated from this wonderful place and these amazing people.

Shoutout Chris for the Nova Scotia hat and rainbow loom bracelet.

Shoutout Mom and Mike, hope you guys are holding it down alright.

Shoutout Grace, hope you like turquoise.